For teachers, August always feels like summer is over. Yes, the weather is still hot and the trees are still green, but most of us are finally buckling down to the work of lesson planning. A couple of weeks ago, we had a one-hour online meeting of the English Department to attempt to find the shape of the coming semester.
Nobody has ever had to run a university with the threat of Covid-19, so we will need to remain flexible and ready to try different strategies, especially if the infection rate goes up again and we must all stay home. We do have a few advantages, though:
- Ashland University never came back from Spring Break, so we have been doing distance education since March 16. The first few weeks were very rocky, but we're learning, and this fall should be a lot more graceful.
- The companies that provide our Internet services were overwhelmed when we shut down in March, but they have been working to upgrade their equipment, and we should have an easier time in September.
- I've been writing freshman English courses for distance education students (mainly those who are in prisons) for several years, and I've learned a thing or two that I will bring to our course.
So here's what we do know about English 100 this fall:
- Your section will be divided into three cohorts of about six students each. Each one will be assigned a day (Monday, Wednesday, or Friday) for on-campus meeting. You will only be in a face-to-face classroom one day per week. You will get an email later telling you which day is yours.
- The remainder of the course will come through the Blackboard learning management site. You can't get in yet because I haven't finished putting it together, but site is divided into weeks and you will have reading and writing assignments due each week.
- I'm aware that some of you have less-than-wonderful computers and/or internet connections. Don't panic. I'll write the course so it works with less-than-wonderful equipment.
- If we do get a stay-at-home order, I've got some ideas for shifting the course around. We'll just keep going.
- I wrote the basic curriculum for English 101 and 102, and I've tried to minimize the overlap. When you get into 101, even though you're using the same textbooks, you won't be repeating much material.
So what else does an English teacher do in the summer (besides writing curriculum for the coming semester)? My main route to sanity has been a lot of bicycling. Richland and Knox counties have miles and miles of Rail/trail bike trails, and four or five rides of 25-35 miles every week really saved my brain. I have a friend who directs the local opera company, and at least once a week we get together (on his front porch, sitting ten feet apart, with the breeze blowing) for pizza and beer. For about the first 2½ months of the quarantine, I was really focused on what I could not do. Now I'm working on what I can do.